Friday, February 09, 2007

A real Safari Weekend!

We had an amazing weekend. Friday we filmed an anti-DDT rally in the heart of Kampala and got some great footage of the mob of people. It was a really great fix for the doldrums we’ve found ourselves in the past few weeks.

Then we pried ourselves out of bed at 4:30 in the morning for the six hour drive up to Murchison Falls. We made good time despite the horrible roads and arrived at the Paraa Lodge on the banks of the Nile by 12:30. It was a really gorgeous place, very colonial looking with heavy leather furniture, potted tropical plants, mirrors trimmed in canvas and leather and hurricane lamps everywhere. Not to mention a great view of the park and an amazing pool. We went for a dip, had a drink (One never tires of the novelty of the swim up bar…) and got dressed up in our best safari duds…you know, khaki pants.

That evening we went on a game drive (more bumpy roads!) and saw a huge herd of Giraffes. They were just gorgeous. Some were almost black, a sign of age, apparently. We saw three elephants having their dinner as the sun was going down and a whole lot of bushbucks, cobs and a few cape buffalo. We had a fabulous dinner (the best steak I’ve had during our trip) and tucked into bed early.

Sunday we got up early for breakfast and as Eric and I sat there eating our omelets and pineapple, a giant baboon jumped up onto the balcony, raced for a table, jumped on top, sending dishes crashing to the floor as he grabbed packets of sugar out of the bowl, stuffed them in his mouth and leapt away, while the hotel employees three rocks at them. They are huge in real life and the waiter said that if they can tell you are intimidated, they will attack. They are almost pure muscle and I don’t think I’d want to have to fight one off.

After breakfast we all went for a boat ride on the Nile for more animal watching and some ornithology. The banks were absolutely covered with hippos drenched in mud and water. There were crocs sunning themselves near the falls. Linda said that they like to hang out at the base of the falls because the fish are disoriented when they finally reach the bottom. They are stunned and dizzy and easy prey for the hungry crocodiles. We saw some red tailed monkeys and just when I was starting to feel sad about having seen only three elephants, we came upon a whole herd of them drinking water. There were maybe 12 adults and three little babies (Little being relative in this case. Steve told me that when they are born they weigh almost three hundred pounds.)

There was also an amazing array of birds. I’ve never been much of a birdwatcher, but I can see how Uganda could turn you into a birder. There were all sorts of storks and cranes and darters, we saw fish eagles, starlings, kingfishers and my personal favorite, the bee catcher. It had the most extraordinary colors, a shocking combination of electric green, orange and blue. It was gorgeous; a little sparkling, flying jewel.

Although the boat came near to the Falls, afterwards we drove up to the top to get a better look and, though I originally voted against it, I'm so glad we did. It was incredible. At this one point, the entire Nile pours down a narrow crevice of rock. The water is pulverized into foam and mist. Our pictures don't really capture it, but I'm so glad we went. It was an amazing weekend with wonderful company and at last we've visited the scenic Africa that tourists come around the world for.

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